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AMC has highest hospitalization numbers yet for COVID-19

Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake (Photo provided by Adirondack Health)

SARANAC LAKE — As of Monday, Oct. 4, there were six people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Adirondack Medical Center, the most people hospitalized at once there in 19 months of the pandemic, according to Adirondack Health spokesperson Matt Scollin.

It has been common to have one, two or three people hospitalized with COVID-19 at a time, he said. Sometimes it was zero. Sometimes it was four or five. But six is the most the hospital’s seen at one time so far.

Scollin said the virus is more serious than the flu and that hospitalizations are often the result of someone having difficulty breathing.

“If you’re admitted for COVID-19 it’s safe to say that you are feeling pretty bad,” he said. “It’s not the normal ‘suffer it out at home’ that you you would do for influenza or something like that.”

Scollin said one of the hospitalized people was on a ventilator. He said ventilator use has been rare at AMC for COVID-19 hospitalizations, but it has nine units available.

Nationwide, COVID-19 hospitalizations are on a downward trend, decreasing sharply each week, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after reaching a spike at the start of September.

Franklin County reported 178 active COVID-19 cases on Monday, 32 of them new. The Essex County Public Health Department reported 93 active cases, 41 new since its last report on Sept. 30. Essex County Public Health Program Coordinator Andrea Whitmarsh said 16 of those 41 new cases were fully vaccinated.

On Sept. 27, the hospital lost seven employees who either resigned or were fired as a result of the state’s mandate that health care employees get vaccinated against COVID-19. Four were employees at at Adirondack Health’s Mercy Living Center nursing home in Tupper Lake.

At the time, Adirondack Health had a 95% vaccination rate. Fewer than 30 employees were unvaccinated. Seven of those have already left or been terminated. The fate of the remaining unvaccinated workers will be decided by federal court rulings. These workers are seeking medical or religious exemption from the vaccine and are continuing to work for now, as a federal court reviews the mandate. The court is expected to determine if religious exemptions are permissible by Oct. 12.

Staff are filling all the gaps and roles by taking extra hours and extra shifts, Scollin said.

“We don’t like losing one employee, so it really is still not what we would have preferred, to have seven less people working here,” he said. “But that’s the way things shook out.”

The hospital had weeks to plan for this loss, he said, so it was ready when the date came.

Health care workers who are terminated because they refuse the vaccine are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits without a doctor-approved request for medical accommodation, according to the state Department of Labor.